“So, you decided to learn the clarinet from your sister after all then?”
“No, Sir. I have taught myself to play the trumpet.” I was beaming an extra-wide smile, from the surprise I knew this news would be to the teacher, as much as the fact that I knew I had done it myself.
“Uh-huh, well where’s your trumpet? Let’s take a listen and I’ll decide if a challenge is warranted.” I pulled Tommy’s trumpet out of his case, attaching the mouthpiece I carried in my pocket. Butterflies felt as nervous inside my tummy as did my shaking hands positioning the trumpet to play. From memory I played my best tune… the melody, of course. “Well, let’s hear you play this one,” Mr. B said to me while putting a piece of sheet music on the stand next to me. He followed that with a second and third.
No longer nervous but elated, I finished the last piece and turned to Mr. B, still seated with his fingers steepled in front of his face. “What do you think? Can I call for a challenge?”
That was the first of many such challenges as Mr. B released me that very day to teach myself any instrument I had a desire to play. I could not play in the band unless I had successfully challenged on the new instrument but he would allow me the liberty to choose what I wanted to play. He would see that I had time in the practice rooms and instruments to use, if my friends did not have any for me to borrow.
I am so grateful to God for Mr. B’s willingness to “give me my head”, (as we say about horses)! I “ran like the wind” through those junior high years in the school band, playing with the high school band during the summers. Because of the freedom given me, I played 10 different instruments in the school band, including the clarinet! I just could not let it defeat me, could I? I was never as good as my sister, but I could play it. Even so, the trumpet remained my favorite and most frequently played instrument.
This is not where this happy story of using God’s gifts ends, though. Sadly, Mr. B left our school system when I was 15. The man taking his place was young, new to teaching and eager to please the authorities over him. According to the rules, all Senior High band members must march in the football marching band, without exception. Okay, no problem I can do that. However, the rule also said that the uniforms were first chosen by seniors, then the junior class and, finally, the sophomores, my class. By the time my alphabet letter was called and I went to the uniform room, the only uniform left for me was, quite literally, eight inches too long in the pants and six inches too long in the jacket sleeves. There was no cutting allowed. I would have to fold it under, stitching the hem under the legs and sleeves. My mother was a brilliant seamstress but, even she, could not make that look good. I went to the new teacher’s house to plead with him. He would not be moved and I resigned from the band. (It was also not allowed to rejoin the band after football season.)
I was so blessed to have had Mr. B and all that I was able to learn while he was my teacher. Though I did not accept the scholarship, I was offered a four-year, full-ride scholarship to one of the universities in our State. All I had to do was play the trumpet in their Music Department. I missed playing but, in truth, I sold my trumpet to buy myself contact lenses. I was 18 and that should say it all, right?!
Last week I submitted a story in the Faith Writers Weekly Writing Challenge that may show you another reason I traded in my trombone for a trumpet, besides to play the melody!
****My First Parade March… Coming Tomorrow